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Alone, Not Lonely

October 3 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

Most of us cannot bear to imagine being alone for an extended period. When we somehow find ourselves lonely, we tend to do everything possible to keep ourselves distracted and kill time. Such an attitude may be to miss the point entirely. Take it from Hunter S. Thompson.

"We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and – in spite of True Romancemagazines - we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way,” wrote the American journalist and author. “I do not say lonely - at least, not all the time - but essentially, and finally, alone."

Whenever we find ourselves alone, we act frantic as if we cannot stand being around our own company, as if we are trying to escape our disturbing and clashing thoughts. No matter that we do our work quickly so we can go home, spend a few hours with loved ones, sleep, rinse and repeat, only to complain how there is not enough time in the world.

We crave some time for ourselves but get terrified when we finally have it. This was what happened to the daughter of a friend. I met the mother a couple of weeks ago. As we were conversing, she disclosed to me how worried she was about her daughter who has many friends and often goes out with them. She is barely home.

I did not think this was strange. The daughter is 22 after all, and that is how young people behave. It should be fine as long as she is keeping herself safe and not getting in with the wrong people. This was what I told the mother, but there was more to the story.

"I asked her once why she had so many friends," the mother confided to me about her daughter. “She said that she doesn't like the idea of being on her own.”

Apparently, the daughter does not even like most of the places her friends go or the things they do for fun. She hangs out with them simply so that she does not feel lonely. Once, she abruptly left for Hawassa, the capital of the Southern Regional State, for three days just because her friends decided to go with some random guys they met. When she finally decided to come home, she told her parents how her friends did not force her to do anything.

Most of us have heard of such incidents, but we usually assume the cause is peer pressure. It usually is. But it is rarely considered that some people would do such a thing for the simple reason of needing not to be alone. It could be a destructive force just like bad peer pressure.

Evidently, this does not need to be the case. Feeling lonely is not an alien emotion. It happens. The trick is to redirect it into productive activities. There are people who, driven out of their cocoon by loneliness, make the best of their situation. Some may even describe it as an advantage.

I know of a close acquaintance who started making friends, because he was not good at being on his own. Whenever he felt lonely or found himself feeling alone, he used to go out and head to an internet cafe across from his house. He used to strike up a conversation with whoever was sitting next to him.

Once, he met an older man that was studying programming at the time, and they became instant friends. The newfound friend introduced him to his friends, and they started meeting often. He hung out with them, because he did not have any friends, but he grew to like them and developed an interest in computer science, which later became his major in college. It turns out that he was good at it. Today, he owns a software company.

Picking the right social circle has its perks. Neither should we be too afraid to be on our own. If anything, we should use it as an opportunity to self-evaluate and improve ourselves. At the end of the day, self-knowledge comes from introspection, which is hard to do when we are constantly being surrounded by people. It is by knowing ourselves a little better, and with some patience, that we come to make the right choices.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 03,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1066]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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